“Summer Slide” Doesn’t Exist For Affluent Kids
We all know that some kids, especially low-income ones, experience a “summer slide” in their academic skills—but this article from the Toronto Star offers much more detail from new research on how this happens, and why it *doesn’t* happen for higher-income kids:
“Children in rich, educated families tend to become better readers over the summer — improving at almost the same pace as if they were in school — largely because they have more time with their highly literate parents, new research shows.
But students in less affluent, less educated families can lose almost a month’s worth of reading skill, widening the learning gap between rich and poor while school is closed for the summer.
McMaster University sociology professor Scott Davies, who is leading the landmark study funded by Ontario’s Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, said the findings underscore the need for intense reading help for high-need students in summer and maybe eventually on weekends and after school, ‘to take a bite out of that learning gap.’
The study is the largest ever done in Canada into the ‘summer setback’ in literacy experienced by students in low-income families. While continuing this summer in nearly 40 school boards across the province, pilot programs over the past two years have already shown that children of wealthy, university-educated parents tend to read about five months ahead of their poorest classmates by the end of June each year, and the gap stretches even wider in summer when children are immersed in their diverse family backgrounds without school to level the playing field.
A child who is reading four to five months behind his richer classmates in Grade 1 can fall more than a whole year behind by Grade 3, the study showed. U.S. studies have found summer learning gaps can be early warnings for poor high school marks and even dropping out.
While children whose parents didn’t go past high school generally saw their literacy skills slip by a month (the amount of skill typically gained in a month at school), parents with bachelor’s degrees saw their children’s reading skill actually rise by a month; those with master’s degrees, PhDs and professional degrees — doctors, lawyers and so on — saw their children’s reading skill go up by two months, even though school was closed.
‘It’s like French immersion, but I call it socio-economic immersion — there’s nothing like having two months with highly literate parents modeling vocabulary, exposing you to reading; it’s like having your own private tutor or being in summer school at home,’ said Davies, who holds the Ontario Research Chair in Educational Achievement and At-Risk Students.
While the benefits of educational camps, family trips, extra books, newspapers and computers account for about 25 per cent of the so-called ‘summer surge’ experienced by children in more affluent families, those things aren’t the key, Davies warned.
‘It’s also the daily conversations that are sophisticated and expand children’s vocabularies, and being read to regularly by seasoned readers, one-on-one,’ he said in his latest report, to be published in Canadian Public Policy. ‘This informal role-modeling is available to affluent children seven days per week. Less advantaged children, in contrast, have less constant exposure to those quality resources.’” Read more here.
“Socio-economic immersion”—wow. That phrase effectively captures what’s going on in the homes of more affluent kids, and gives us a sense of how high a mountain poorer kids have to climb in order to keep up.